Sailboats seemed so idyllic—until I went sailing. I discovered that what looked peaceful from a distance was physically vigorous. It involved constant alertness, team work, and careful attention to the instructions of my friend. Only then could we align the sails of our boat with the powerful prairie wind and experience the exhilaration of being caught and propelled! Work, joy and vulnerability were wrapped together in experiencing this force that was so much greater than us.
The Faith and Life Committee (FLC) of Mennonite Church Canada is one of the leadership bodies called to help the church align with the wind of God’s Spirit through discerning God’s will on issues of theology, ethics, polity and practice. This past summer’s study assembly, “Dusting off the Bible for the 21st Century” grew out of the vision and initiative of the FLC. Delighting in Scripture, reading Scripture with fresh eyes, and delving into hermeneutics (the study and interpretation of the Bible) are practices that place the church in good “sailing” conditions so that we can discern the direction of God’s Spirit. Only then can we begin to understand God’s call to the church as it lives and gives witness in a world swirling with diverse cultures and faiths, fragile creation, vulnerable economics. Only then can we wrestle with deep questions of doubt in how things have been done in the past and live into experiments of creativity and hope.
The FLC desires to equip and strengthen the church in her ability to be a faithful church, not only on questions of sexuality, but in the diversity of issues that face us in the second decade of this 21st century. To build on lifting our biblical sails, the FLC has initiated a season of prayer called “Hear what the Spirit is saying” with our 225 congregations across Canada. Each congregation was asked to identify two people who have a passion for prayer and God’s Word. Over the summer months these people of prayer were invited to read study and meditate on Matthew 8-10, listening attentively for what the Spirit may be saying. These leaders are now involved in an electronic dialogue about “what is the Spirit saying to us, the broader church?”
In November the FLC will meet to consider the wisdom that this season of prayer has to contribute to the Being a Faithful Church process and more broadly, what other areas of faith and life Mennonite Church Canada should be addressing.
Bible reading, Bible study and prayer are practices that the church has engaged in since Pentecost and so we are in continuity with our Christian heritage. These sacred practices have led to renewal and charting new waters of being the faithful church. My prayer is that such efforts will help each one of us catch the wind of where the Spirit is blowing in our time, and with both faith and joy we will be propelled to join the work and mission that our ever renewing God has already begun!
Karen Martens Zimmerly is the denominational minister for Mennonite Church Canada.